Currently, “Copyrighted” is the default state of any creative piece. I think it is time this is changed to be Creative Commons – or something similar. I would distinguish also a right for a piece not to be spliced/abridged. Part of a set, do not distribute separately.
For one, this is the way fandoms view intellectual property, and, let’s face it – without fandoms, merch does not get sold. Additionally, it is through the enrichment of stories and content that better content is created.
I think of storytellers who retold and embellished other people’s stories, I think of folk songs passed down, re-interpreted and re-matched against other tunes, and a flurry of other great things that we’ve gotten from being free to rework, rehash and recombine, and then compare that against an imperative to ensure that only one body has the right to copy and distribute an expression for fear that it is inherently in the copying that money is to be made (a very Pre-War point of view).
Abiding by the book: in law, buskers playing popular songs are repeatedly breaching copyright, fan fictions are a theft of trademark, every design on TeeFury and other t-shirt site is a violation of rights on intellectual property. Taken to an alarmist extreme, referencing popular culture in a published or performed piece is potentially a breach of copyright (the walls surrounding fair use are not watertight – they’d need to be clear for starters).
I think we need to relax a bit. More money is wasted on legal battles than earned riding the waves of popularity and fandoms – who, by the way, really want other people to know about your material. Since we can’t simply say in court “Copyright sometimes applies,” I’d vote for more permissive licenses to be the legal standard. This does not exclude the ability to copyright a work, but a change would highlight the differences between the two licensing schemes, and open up further discussion as to what is really, truly necessary to foster creativity without causing the collapse of creative professions.